What I Learned from Losing Everything to Start a Brand New Journey

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Even if you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, sometimes you learn the hard way…

By Joelle Pang (Co-founder, GetKlarity)

Even though I’ve been an entrepreneur for eight years, I’ve still made plenty of startup mistakes. What’s important are the lessons you take away from your mistakes — so that you don’t make the same ones again. After a whirlwind year, here are my three key takeaways.

Note: This is a story about what happened in the summer of 2014. I shared this story at the inaugural Women 2.0 City Meetup in Asia’s first city, Singapore. I felt that it was finally time to share this story — a full year had passed, I was in the company of an amazingly supportive community, and most importantly, I fully understood the key lessons I had learned.

About a year ago, I was invited to lead a newly-formed startup development studio and business accelerator based in Singapore. It was a great opportunity. I had a salaried job as a resident entrepreneur and builder, where I’d help new startups take off. I’d also get to keep a huge chunk of equity in the startups I was driving.

Because we were working under a “family-style concept,” I did not once request for the terms of my engagement to be detailed in black and white.

As the saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I assembled a founding team of highly driven entrepreneurial individuals. We started work on the ideas that would eventually become the startups we would drive. We began to move forward months in advance of our contracts taking effect — but everything didn’t go according to plan.

To cut the long story short, our team had to break off from this working relationship with the accelerator as it became clear our expectations and understanding were not in sync. This leads me to learning my first lesson.

Lesson 1: Ask for a Detailed Contract

Don’t be afraid. This is not a sign of mistrust, but an indication that the relationship is important enough for you to want to protect it.

We learned this lesson a little bit too late. Overnight, our team was left jobless, with no clear purpose to strive for. What were we to do? Should we go back to day jobs, or should we stick together as a team, despite knowing that the road ahead would be long and tough?

What ensued were two extremely tough weeks. We had to quickly pivot our idea, incorporate our company, and fend off feelings of self-doubt and intense fear.

Fast-forward nine months. We are now the co-founders of Get Klarity, a beauty and wellness app that helps our customers book the top spas and salons at exclusive prices. Barely six months after our beta launch, we have attracted over 20,000 beauty lovers to our sites, many of whom have been booking from their network of more than 120 spa outlets.

Lesson 2: You Are More Powerful Than the Challenges You Face

We’re extremely blessed to have created a solution that solves a pressing everyday problem; We enable customers to discover and book high-quality personal care services at a time, location and budget that works for them. The highs we experienced include appearing on Singapore’s prime time news and validation from the press.

That said, life is still never a bed of roses. The challenges you face a startup founder are always intense. The sheer volume of work that needs your attention from day to day is heavy, to say the least.

I genuinely enjoy spending a good 16 hours a day with my team — even if some those hours include heated debates and occasionally not seeing eye-to-eye on key issues. Without this team, there’d be absolutely no chance we could have achieved as much. We share the common vision we’ve set for GetKlarity, and we’re moving that vision toward together.

As the saying by Aristotle goes, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” And this leads me to the last thought I’ll leave you with.

Lesson 3: A Good Idea is Great, But a Great Team is So Much More

With this amazing team, we were able to see through our challenges, come out stronger and more matured than before, and are more ready than ever to make magic happen on our brand new journey at GetKlarity!


About the guest blogger: Joelle Pang is a structured yet out-of-the-box thinker who is passionate about making things work and solving real world problems in the most efficient way. She built her first successful startup in the fashion e-commerce space in 2008, and went on to drive other startups in fashion marketplaces, online publishing and big data. Recently she founded GetKlarity.com, a beauty and wellness platform to enable customers to discover and book the best spas and salons, at exclusive prices. Follow her on Twitter at @miss_pang.